canning time is finally here!

I am so happy to be getting into my canning groove! It appears that Minnesota is going to skip right from summer to winter, so what better time to be in the kitchen over a hot stove?

If you’re following us on YouTube (link below!) you’ll know that I started canning last week, and now I’m rearranging my schedule to get some more time in! With how long it takes to prep, can, and clean up, it’s not something I can do after work; we also spend our weekends at our homestead working, so no time there.

After some finagling, I’ve managed to find three slots of time to make these magical treats, and they’ve resulted in five jars of wild blackberry jelly (more to come!), 10 jars of wild raspberry jam, and 10 jars of apple sauce.

My wild berry jams have been classic recipes thus far – berries, pectin, and sugar. Pure bliss. My next batches will be twists – chocolate raspberry, vanilla blackberry, and bumbleberry (i usually go for the big four – raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry).

I’m eager to continue my canning season. I’ll post recipes over the next few weeks for you to try at home! Do you have favorite recipes? Please share them in the comments.

L-R: wild blackberry vanilla, wild raspberry, wild blackberry – chocolate wild raspberry on the stove as I write this!

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happy birthday to me – we have electricity!

For my 33rd birthday, my husband gave me electricity in the cabin! Ok, it wasn’t a birthday present, we just happened to have some “down time” from installing our hardwood floors so he decided to make the final few tweaks to get it up and running.

Hubby and I don’t buy gifts for each other – birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. Its just not our thing. If there’s something we want, we spoil ourselves with it whenever it seems right. But because I’ve been so eager for our electricity, I definitely feel like this was his gift to me.

I was spending my day out chaga hunting and checking out all the wild mushrooms fall brings and didn’t realize he was actually wrapping the electricity up. When I came back in, I was beyond excited to watch him flip all the switches and see the lights come on!

I can’t believe I managed to land this amazing man but I’m sure glad I did! A great 33rd birthday, and happy every day to me being married to this amazing man.

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maple syrup excitement

I love maple syrup on my breakfast sausage and bacon. Something about the salty and the sweet takes the meat from tasty to mouth-wateringly delicious! Oddly enough, I don’t enjoy it on my pancakes, waffles, or anything else. Call me strange, but it is what it is. My husband, on the other hand, douses all his breakfast food in it – meat, carbs, and all.

What this means is that I’m super pumped to make maple syrup for the first time next spring! With everything we’ve had going on for the last two years we just haven’t had the time. But with the end of cabin construction in sight (woo hoo!) we can make this work this year!

Growing up, my family had good friends that made maple syrup, and I loved to watch them work in the spring, getting the wood stove nice and hot, pouring big buckets of sap into huge pots, transferring the shrinking sap into smaller pots as it became syrup. I hoped that one day I’d be able to do that too.

This past weekend, I spent some time tagging our biggest maple trees. Some are so large I can’t come close to getting my arms around them! They’re definitely going to get two taps.

A behemoth of a tree!

Over the next few months, I’ll be reading up on the process, getting tips and tricks, and purchasing the materials. Check back here (and on our YouTube channel) to see how things go!

Even before we get to the syrup process, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel (link below) and follow us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead for all the rest of our fun!

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bye bye, berry season

This past weekend, I picked my final wild berries of the year. For me, that is the true end of summer. This year, I’m going to harvest wild rose hips which will take my foraging into fall, but it’s still not the same as hours spent in the hot sun, berry juice staining my hands, my back protesting the constant bending, the thorns and barbs dragging across my skin, and the sounds of summer singing around me.

Berry stained hands!

The beginning of fall means that get to start the canning process, which is one of my very, very favorite things, but I still mourn the days spent deep in the woods, with nothing but nature around me.

This year was a crazy berry year – we had close to record cold temperatures this winter (30 below actual temp and 60 below windchill!!), a fair drought to start the spring, and then boatloads of rain for the following month or so. For some reason, that erratic weather led to some of the best berries I’ve ever seen!

Wild blackberries have been nonexistent since we bought the homestead two and a half years ago, and this year I plucked 4 1/2 gallons with ease with plenty to spare for the birds. Wild blueberries were slightly late but are still around, even as we head into September (far later than usual). And wild raspberries are so abundant you could never pluck them all.

Wild blackberries galore!

My haul for the year:

Wild blackberries: 4.5 gallons

Wild raspberries: 3 gallons

Wild blueberries: 3 gallons

Wild chokecherries (I know, not a berry): 4 gallons

I also picked 1 gallon each of cultivated raspberries and blueberries. I didn’t get a chance to pick strawberries but thankfully my family did (and are willing to share!).

Starting to plan the canning season is definitely helping me get over my summer grieving. I plan to make basic jellies and jams (just one berry) as well as bumbleberry (mixed berry), dark chocolate raspberry, and for the first time, bourbon vanilla blackberry. I’m also planning out a few other unusual recipes, but I’m not sure where I’ll land yet. If you have a recipe you love, I’d love to have you drop it in the comments!

Part of last year’s canning adventures

My plans also include wild blackberry brandy as well as wild raspberry and blackberry cordials. I’m also going to try to make fruit leather for the first time.

In addition to all of that, I’ll be making and canning apple sauce and apple butter, and as mentioned above I’ll be canning rose hip jelly. And, of course, crips and pies.

Whew! I have a busy time ahead of me! I have a few more vacation days available so I plan to take an extended weekend sometime in October to get through a lot of this.

Make sure you keep up with our blog as well as subscribing to our YouTube channel (link below) and following us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead for recipes, tips, tricks, and more deliciousness!

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fall is on the way

One of my favorite things about living in Minnesota is the full four seasons. There are things I love about each one.

In Winter, some of my favorite things are fresh, deep snow and how vast the world seems with no leaves on the trees. Spring makes me smile with its scent of the world waking up, the buds on the trees, and the new life abounding. Summer is all about wild berries, lazy days on the water, and glorious, abundant sunshine. And then, Fall. Vibrant leaves in every shade, crisp air that pierces the lungs, warm bonfires, and wagon rides.

🎶🎵 These are a few of my favorite things… 🎶🎵

A snap of each season at the homestead with summer in the BWCA

We’re not even in September yet, but I’m already seeing signs of fall. Trees are starting to turn slowly with a few small changes in the leaves here and there, the bugs are mostly gone, and the evenings are getting very cool.

Fall is peeking out!

I’m a little concerned that we’re going to have a very early winter because things are changing already and we had such an odd spring. I’d be sad if I didn’t get to enjoy my full fall. Along with apple sauce and apple butter, I plan on making some apple cider for the first time this year and it just won’t be as tasty in Winter as it is in fall.

Last year’s apple harvest

I’m also planning on harvesting wild rose hips to make rose hip jelly for the first time, and an early winter could cause problems for that.

Regardless of length, I know I’ll enjoy every second of fall, from making jams, jellies, ciders and sauces, to enjoying time around the campfire, to time spent wandering the woods and enjoying the leaves, and much much more.

I love wagon rides!

I can’t pick a favorite season, but I’m excited to enjoy every aspect of Fall!

What’s your favorite part of Fall? Is it your favorite season? Let me know in the comments!

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honeybound hive

If you’ve been following us here, on Instagram, and on our YouTube channel, you know that earlier this summer we found ourselves with a queenless hive. The saga of determining if the hive would produce a queen who would then fully mate ended with a need to buy one from another state, where it was too hot to shop for an additional week. This left our ladies queenless and in need of work for about 5 weeks.

What does a honeybee do when there’s no queen to care for and the nectar flow is at its peak? Make honey of course!

As we went about our hive inspections during our queenless time, we noticed that they were making lots of honey but as novice beekeepers, that made sense to us and wasn’t worrisome. Fast forward to a few weeks after we’d installed our new queen, and we realized a dilemma: our new queen was laying but far less than we expected.

In researching our concerns, we learned we had a “honey bound hive”. Basically, there was too much honey preventing the queen from laying!

We hadn’t been anticipating harvesting any honey this year – we want the ladies to work on rebuilding the population to a sustainable level going into winter. But with this problem on our hands there was only one thing to do – remove a few frames of honey and replace them with new frames!

I knew that local honey tastes completely different than what you buy in the store – you almost exclusively find only clover honey at any grocery store, and it’s all been pasteurized. So, I was expecting something different when I went in for my first nibble, but it was incredibly different and SO delicious!

We don’t have an extractor so there are some bits of pollen and wax as we used a strainer

Our ladies forage acres of wildflowers and wild berries, wild and cultivated fruit trees, and many other native tasty treats. Our honey is a deep orange, sweet as you’d expect, but also surprisingly tangy! I don’t have a clue how to determine what I’m tasting. Regardless of what exactly it is, I will say it’s delicious! We didn’t harvest very much but have a small bit to share with family.

I’ve added it to my morning routine of Chaga and blueberries, and we’re delving into lots of honey recipes – honey BBQ chicken this past weekend was splendid!

Make sure to learn more about our beekeeping and other homesteading adventures by subscribing to our YouTube channel (link below) and by following us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead

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